I went to Escanaba, Michigan during the winter, and here’s why you should too!
My significant other and I arrived in Escanaba late on a Friday evening, and we wanted to live like the locals, so naturally, we went bowling at an alley called Bowl-A-Rama. The place was full of locals and leagues, but they had plenty of open lanes. The games were inexpensive- think $3.25 per game. A pitcher of beer was around $7. This is a perfect way to spend a cold night in Michigan.
After bowling, we did some bar hopping before heading back to our Airbnb. I recommend staying in the downtown area because it’s within walking distance to small shops, the winery in town, restaurants, and bars. I think it would also be fun to stay on the countryside, but for this trip I wanted to explore downtown.
Overnight and into the next morning, there was heavy snowfall, which we ventured into and walked around town. We stumbled across a bookshop called Canterbury Book Store. This place is magical, with floor to ceiling shelves of classic to modern books. We were lucky enough to be able to meet the owners, a husband and wife, who were both working that morning.
Because of the snow, some of the restaurants downtown were closed, although based on the recommendation from the bookstore owners, we checked out Andy’s Downtown Diner. This is a small-town cafe with typical café foods, but also specialties like the “Albuquerque Benedict,” which is a benedict with chorizo, roasted corn, black beans, bell peppers, onions, sriracha, and hollandaise. There are a few fun items like this on the menu.
After breakfast, we got ready to spend the day snowshoeing, but first made a stop at Dobber’s Pasties. You cannot go to Northern Michigan and not have a pasty. You should also learn the pronunciation, which is “pass-tee.” I learned the hard way to not call it a calzone; if you do this you may be quickly corrected by the pasty shop workers. Also, pronunciation of pasty is key!
The way I describe a pasty is a savory stuffed pastry pocket. The pocket itself is not as flaky as I imagined, but it’s a rather sturdy baked dough. The filling can be a variety of savory mixes, but always includes rutabaga. I was told that if it doesn’t include rutabaga, it’s not a real pasty. The filling itself is not juicy like I had imagined either, but hearing the background story about the first pasties, that made sense to me. They were originally made for miners by their wives, and the miners would put the pasty in their pocket to keep it warm. I can imagine if the filling was juicy, the miner was going to have a bad time at work spilling pasty out all over their pants. Pasties are typically served with ketchup or gravy. I tried both a beef pasty and a pizza pasty, but I think my preference was the original beef pasty.
If talk of pasties intrigues you but you cant make the venture to Escanaba, Michigan, Dobber’s Pasties can ship pasties right to your door! You can order from their online website.
We spent the rest of the day snowshoeing at the Days River Trail. The area we chose for snowshoeing was beautiful, especially after a fresh coat of snow. I highly recommend checking it out.
Don’t have snowshoes? The Escanaba Civic Center has snowshoe rentals for free! All you have to do is go to the Civic Center and pick them up. You get to keep them for 24 hours. They have several sizes of snowshoes, too, so this could be free fun for the whole family. I loved this about Escanaba.
Before dinner we stopped out at Upper Hand brewery. This is a bit out of town, by the Escanaba airport, so plan ahead for driving. The brews were great and had fun names that align with Escanaba’s love for the outdoors. Check it out for a pint or two.
For dinner, we went to Freshwater Tavern. This is place had an upscale feel, but I felt very comfortable wearing my snow pants and Carhartt sweatshirt there after snowshoeing. Also, if you like butter (who doesn’t?!), then this is your place. They serve a flight of butter with their bread! This was a major selling point for me to try out this restaurant. I mean, I was born in a state that celebrates the famous butter cow at the State Fair. We ordered entrees of baked fish, which seemed appropriate for a lakefront restaurant, and it was appropriately phenomenal. They also had great salads and appetizers.
On Sunday, before we left Escanaba, we checked out the Swedish restaurant called Swedish Pantry. This restaurant touts itself as the best restaurant in town, and I have to agree, it was very good! I tried the Swedish pancakes and the Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam. This is a perfect place for brunch on our way out of town.
Overall, I think that a lot of activities can be packed into a weekend in Escanaba, especially in the winter. Check out the Visit Escanaba website: https://www.visitescanaba.com for more information of everything Escanaba has to offer!
Things I wish I had time to do:
- Explore the lakeside
- Go ice fishing
- Watch ice racing
- Check out Leigh’s Garden Winery